Applicable State and Local Law Considerations

Different states have different probate laws. These laws govern the various aspects of probate including planning and administration of the estate, the wills, the descent and distribution, as well as the probate process.

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Around 20 states in the United States follow the Uniform Probate Code. However, states like Georgia still choose to follow their own set of probate laws. According to the laws in Georgia, there will be no need for full probate if all of the following conditions are met:

  • There is no will
  • There are no debts owed by the deceased
  • The estate is not contested by the deceased’s heirs. There should be absolutely no dispute among the heirs over the distribution of property – they should all be in complete agreement over the division.

Since the probate process in almost all states is cumbersome and costly, most people seek to avoid getting into the formalities of the system. The state of Georgia allows you the following options for avoiding probate:

  • Joint ownership of property, where the surviving party automatically becomes the sole owner of the property in case the other dies.
  • Living trusts in Georgia can be made for absolutely any asset at all including vehicles, bank accounts, and real estate. Upon your death, the assets will transfer to the beneficiaries without the need for probate.
  • Designating bank accounts as Payable-On-Death (POD) give complete control and full use of these accounts to you as long as you’re alive. Once you die, the beneficiary can claim the money in your account directly from the bank – a probate process is not required.
  • Registering securities for Transfer-On-Death (TOD) will automatically transfer the stocks and bonds in your name to the beneficiaries after your death. There will be no probate required.

The transfer-on-death option is not available for real estate and vehicles in Georgia. Of course, other states may have different laws regulating probate and a majority of these laws can be particularly complex. It is always better to consult an estate or probate attorney based in your state for proper legal advice.